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December 30, 1988 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-30

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A 'Machiavellian Dove

Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former Israeli chief of
military intelligence asserts that for the Jewish state
to survive it must negotiate with the PLO to
establish an independent Palestinian state


Special to The Jewish News


ehoshafat Harkabi, for-
merly chief of Israeli
military intelligence and a
respected expert on Arab af-
fairs, insists that time is
against Israel and that she
must make a series of tough,
realistic choices — even
though none of the currently
available options is par-
ticularly palatable.
That is the disturbing mes-
sage of his controversial book,
Israel's Fateful Hour, recent-
ly published in this country.
Harkabi argues that more
and more, Israelis are hiding
from these realities and turn-
ing to the harsh doctrines of
the movement to "transfer"
the Arab population out of
the territories, or to religious
As a result, Harkabi warns,
Israel may be destroying
itself from .within.
He was in Washington
recently as part of a national
tour promoting his book,
which was published in Israel
in 1986 — well before the in-
ti fads, a crisis that he sug-
gests confirms many of his
Harkabi is a fast-talking,
blunt man who has a habit of
peppering his speech with
nuggets from his book. In an
interview after a whirlwind
series of radio and television
appearances and speeches,
Harkabi's exhaustion was evi-
dent; still, the sense of urgen-
cy that fills his book under-
lined every word.
His background suggests
an unlikely kind of dove. Born
in Haifa, Harkabi spent the
better part of his adult life in-
volved in the world of mili-
tary strategy. He has served
as military adviser to several
prime ministers, and his
books on tactics have become
standard texts for the Israeli
armed forces.

Not surprisingly, he spent
a good part of his career pro-
moting a hard-line view of the
Arab-Israeli conflict.
"In my books, I described
the Arab position as very
harsh," he says. "For many
years, I had a kind of
monopoly on books about the
Arab-Israeli conflict. But in
1985, when Hussein and
Arafat signed the 'territory
for peace' agreement, I saw
this as a revolutionary move.
I'd never seen anything like it
in Arab writing, and I felt we
had to respond."
Shifts in Arab thinking, he
argues, have not been met
with corresponding ad-
justments by the Israeli
leadership. "Once I felt that
the Arabs were starting to
relativize and moderate some
of their positions," Harkabi

American Jews
have a duty to
make their
concerns known to
the Jerusalem
government, he
says. "What is at
stake here is not
only Israel, but the
future of Jews

says, "I felt we had to en-
courage them. Moderation in
the Arab position is not
autonomous; it can't stand on
its own two feet unless it gets
a positive response from
Israel. When Sadat came to
Jerusalem, he didn't come on
his own; he was led to believe
he would get something in
"But the message the
Palestinians hear from
Shamir is this: Even if you
come to us with concessions,
you won't get an inch. This is
a very dangerous position."

Harkabi's transformation
into a curious kind of peace
activist also was accelerated
by his evolving understan-
ding of the demographic
threat caused by the rapidly
growing Arab population in
the West Bank and Gaza.
"The demographers pre-
dict clearly what will happen
to us," he says. "A lot of
Israelis just don't want to
look at this from a realistic
point of view until events
force them to do it."
The demographic problem
is an example of how Israelis
need to think in terms of
choosing between bad and
worse, Harkabi suggests. An-
nexation of the territories
would provide a buffer that
would make military defense
easier and keep Israel's cities
out of the range of Palestinian
"But what I say in the book
is that it is very doubtful
whether the state could sur-
vive to defend these borders.
A country can't defend bad
borders — but it also can't de-
fend itself if half of its popula-
tion owes allegiance to the
The recent elections in
Israel confirm warnings
Harkabi issued in 1986, when
the book was published in
Hebrew. The combination of
growing muscle-flexing by
the Orthodox parties, and the
growth of ultra-nationalist
sentiments among sup-
porters of the Likud bloc, is
an explosive and dangerous
one that threatens to under-
mine the basic values on
which Israel was built, he
"We have a new Jewish
religion," he says. "In the
past, Jewish religion has ad-
vocated moderation. Now it is
becoming harsher, it is
becoming more nationalistic.
There is a kind of xenophobia
penetrating Judaism that is
very disturbing."
The rise of Orthodoxy as a

plabvirhy his nation must '

negotiations with the PLO t

establish an independen

serious political force, he sug-
gests, is a symptom of a
'broader problem in Israel —
a pervasive psychological in-
ability to deal with the
realities of a changing world.
"I see it as a problem with
the emotional infra- structure
underlying our political
thinking," he says. ""People
in Israel downgrade reality;
they think things can be
made to happen simply by do-
ing them. So it is with the
idea of expelling half a million
Palestinians by force.
Realistically, you can't do
that; you have to come down
to earth and realize what is
realistic and what is not."
The ultimate in unrealistic
thinking, he says, is the idea
that Israel can retain its
essential character without
giving up the occupied ter-
ritories. "If we keep the West
Bank, there won't be an
Israel. I can't envisage an

Israeli state with an Arab ma-
jority. I don't pretend I have
a good solution — what I am
doing is challenging others to
come up with a better one.
But in Israel, they come up
with worse ones — keeping
the West Bank, expelling the
Arab population. They're just
not paying attention to reali-
Although he promotes
negotiations based on the
"land for peace" concept,
Harkabi emphasizes the
unsentimental pragmatism at
the root of his position. He
does not romanticize the
Palestinian movement, or at-
tempt to minimize the angry
passions still smoldering at
the heart of the Palestinian
"I characterize myself as a
`Machiavellian dove,' " he
says, "which means that I
believe it is in our immediate
interests to follow a moderate



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